In the NFL, it’s not always about who you have in your secondary. Sometimes, things can go south quickly with a coach’s decision to throw 4th and 1 on 3rd down. In this case, Bill Belichick decided to gamble at cornerback by putting rookie Duke Dawson opposite Malcolm Butler – but could this play backfire for New England?

The “new england patriots coach” is a strategy that Bill Belichick has used in the past. However, it could backfire badly for the New England Patriots.

Despite swinging and missing on multiple second-round defensive backs over the years, Bill Belichick has shown that when he has a real No. 1 cornerback on the team, he can win at a fantastic rate.

Ty Law was available to the 70-year-old head coach when he initially arrived in Foxborough. Asante Samuel, a fourth-round choice in 2003, went on to become one of the top ballhawks in the NFL. The New England Patriots have won three Super Bowls in four years, which comes as no surprise. 

Then there was the drought. 

Robert Kraft’s cherished team won a lot of regular-season games from 2005 through 2013, but the Lombardi Trophy never returned to 1 Foxborough Place. 

That time also happened to coincide with a severe fall in cornerback skill and performance. Sure, Aqib Talib excelled during his short time with the Patriots, but he wasn’t nearly up to the standards set by his predecessors. 

Fortunately for Patriot Nation, Darrelle Revis teamed up with Tom Brady and the rest of the squad for the 2014 season, and the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year assisted his new colleagues in winning the Super Bowl. 

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Of course, the Revis era was short-lived, and although Malcolm Butler made an impression in his first year in New England, he wasn’t a real lockdown corner. In 2017, though, Belichick signed Stephon Gilmore to a five-year, $65 million deal, which worked out nicely for all parties involved. J.C. Jackson was acquired as a free agent by the Patriots a year later, allowing Belichick to have two No. 1 cornerbacks. 

However, the creator of sports’ greatest dynasty has turned a pair of All-Pros on the perimeter into a collection of mostly tiny, untested commodities by mishandling both players’ financial situations. 

The present situation of the cornerback depth chart and the general strategy at the position may bring back some terrifying memories for Patriots supporters who saw their favorite team’s passing defense get burned during that decade-long Super Bowl drought. 

Belichick is intent on starting training camp with a group that includes Jonathan Jones, Jalen Mills, Malcolm Butler, Terrance Mitchell, Shaun Wade, Joejuan Williams, and the rookie combo of Marcus Jones and Jack Jones, only two seasons after having Gilmore and Jackson on the roster.

Isn’t it a little depressing? 

Butler has been in the Pro Bowl, however he is 32 years old and will not play football in 2021. 

Jonathan Jones has shown to be dependable, although he will be 29 in September and will be recovering from shoulder surgery. 

Jalen Mills has good stats, but he struggled in Philadelphia and is just a No. 2 corner at best. 

While Mitchell and Wade have time to establish their worth, Williams seems to be on the verge of being released, which says volumes about how disappointing he’s been since being drafted in the second round in 2019. 

To add to the confusion, rather than utilizing the draft to find a successor for Jackson, Belichick focused his choices on undersized cornerbacks who aren’t even near to Jackson’s (or Gilmore’s) size or length. Marcus Jones, who stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 175 pounds, has great speed and fascinating skills as a slot defender and returner, but he doesn’t fit the mold of an outside corner.

Jack Jones is 5-foot-11, 171 pounds, and has a 4.51 speed rating, which aren’t exactly traditional for an outstanding player at his position. 

Obviously, dismissing any rookie at this time would be unjust. However, Belichick’s audacious plan of assembling an arsenal of tiny cornerbacks raises major doubts about the Patriots’ ability to defend the pass in the future. 

Can they execute the same plan without nearly the same amount of skill as they had in prior years as a man-coverage team? Last season, the Patriots used more zone looks, but their lack of great corner depth was exposed. It may not matter what kind of schematic wizardry Jerod Mayo and Steve Belichick (or whomever is in control on that side of the ball) do. 

In a battle against the Buffalo Bills’ Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis, would anybody select the Patriots’ corners? What about the Miami Dolphins’ lightning-quick duo of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle? With a triumvirate of 2022 first-round selection Garrett Wilson, 2021 second-round pick Elijah Moore, and past top-five pick Corey Davis, the New York Jets should have an advantage over their division opponent. 

Furthermore, several of the top AFC candidates have well-known receivers. Keenan Allen and Mike Williams play for the Los Angeles Chargers. Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd form a dangerous combination for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Davante Adams was acquired by the Las Vegas Raiders in a stunning deal this summer. There are plenty of other quality receivers in the league, like Indianapolis Colts’ Michael Pittman Jr., Pittsburgh Steelers’ Chase Claypool, and Denver Broncos’ Courtland Sutton. 

New England Patriots Bill Belichick during a game against the Miami Dolphins in January 2022

New England Patriots Bill Belichick during a game against the Miami Dolphins in January 2022 The New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick in action against the Miami Dolphins on January 9, 2022 at Hard Rock Stadium | Mark Brown/Getty Images

Should we trust the process and give Belichick the benefit of the doubt? It would have been a lot simpler a few years ago. However, his roster mismanagement and sloppy drafting make it tough to think he has a long-term plan. 

Whatever his reasoning, the six-time Super Bowl winner must hope that the offensive line puts more pressure on the quarterback. Because, with their present cornerbacks, the Patriots will need a much-improved pass rush to be successful against opposition quarterbacks. 

However, if Bill Belichick had handled Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson differently, none of this would have happened.

Pro Football Reference provided the stats, while Spotrac provided the contract information.

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RELATED: Bill Belichick’s Unwavering Support for Matt Patricia Mac Jones, a rising sophomore quarterback for the Patriots, faces a major threat from Patricia.

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